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For owners of Cat® equipment who might find that once-thriving businesses are now challenged by today’s economic and regulatory climate, Caterpillar Inc. and Cat dealers are ready with a “stimulus package” designed to help owners work through equipment-related concerns. Whether those concerns are do-it-yourself maintenance, affordable fleet expansion, operator training or contract maintenance/repair options, the overall goal of the stimulus package is to help preserve the integrity of the machine-owner’s business.

Caterpillar recently has added on-demand videos available through the Cat website and offering maintenance tips for do-it-yourself cost savings. Live online information also is available now through the Parts-and-Service discussion forum. In addition to those new services, Caterpillar and Cat dealers have packaged proven product support to help customers in most aspects of machine acquisition, operation and maintenance.

A stimulus package, however, can be only as good as the resources that support it. To that end, Cat machine owners can count on the extensive combined resources of Caterpillar, technical expertise and competent people who are ready to address any aspect of an equipment user’s business.

Good advice at www.cat.com/maintenance-and-support

Given that more machine owners are taking on routine maintenance of their machines to conserve cash, Caterpillar is “stimulating” good maintenance practices with on-demand videos that provide practical, detailed advice on various procedures—whether proper replacement of air filters, identifying hose-abrasion points, battery maintenance or preventing hydraulic-system contamination.

Advice is only as good as the advisor, of course, so Caterpillar chose Jeff Payne as the preventive-maintenance instructor for machine videos. Jeff had 11 years as a service technician before joining Caterpillar, and then worked for 12 years as a senior technician at the Caterpillar Tech Center and Proving Grounds prior to taking on the role of Preventive Maintenance Instructor. Machine owners who watch Jeff’s explanation of filter installation, for example, will learn that every filter has its own specific lubrication/tightening procedure, which is detailed on the canister. A seemingly small point, but inattention to those details could jeopardize an engine.

For Cat Power Systems, Nick Rummel is the instructor, and, like Jeff, he provides practical, detailed advice on such issues as inspecting for water-pump leakage and pulling clean oil samples. Before joining Caterpillar, Nick had19 years as a field-service technician for Cat dealers and a large contractor. Nick and Jeff speak with experience-based confidence.

Online information—live

What better way to stimulate the exchange of practical machine-management information than to allow people with similar concerns to talk face-to-face (so to speak)? This is the idea behind new online forums that Caterpillar created to bring equipment users and Cat experts to a digital conference table.

Through the Parts-and-Service discussion forum, customers can post questions to other machine owners, who just might have the answer to a particularly troublesome problem. But if the question is not promptly answered, then the forum monitor can connect with more than 100 subject-matter experts (or SMEs) at Caterpillar to get the needed information. In addition, live video presentations on subjects of machine-owner interest will be presented on a regular basis and will allow viewers to ask questions and make comments.

When buying new isn’t an option

Caterpillar and Cat dealers recognize that deferred purchase of new machines is understandable when the economy is unsettled. But that said, the need for work-ready machines is a pressing concern for anyone who earns a living with equipment.

To address that concern,Cat dealers provide an excellent starting point—TA (Technical Analysis) inspections that assess the health of a machine and identify potential problems. These affordable inspections give machine owners an objective look at machine condition and allow them to intelligently balance machine capability against impending work.

If the machine needs attention to perform reliably, then the Cat dealer is ready with options that range from modest repair to complete rebuild of major components and systems. Customers make the decisions that best suit their  work situations, with the assurance that the chosen option will be carried out by the dealer with craftsmanship and quality parts.

Economically restoring existing machines to reliable condition is one “other-than-new” option, but that option can be complemented with used equipment and rental equipment.

Cat dealers are weathering the current economic climate and are well positioned to offer a wide range of Cat Certified Used Equipment. These machines, all less than five years old with low hours, have passed a detailed inspection and are sold with a minimum six-month power-train warranty.

Another option for fleet expansion on a budget is rental equipment. With more than 500 Cat Rental Stores in North America, equipment users are sure to find a convenient location that offers late-model, low-hour Cat machines and other brand-name equipment, ranging from concrete saws to aerial work platforms. With the resources and reputation of Caterpillar and the Cat dealer behind each piece of rented equipment, customers can expect 100-percent availability and as-promised performance.

Customer Support Agreements

In their broadest definition, Customer Support Agreements (or CSAs) are individualized agreements, between customers and Cat dealers, aimed at lowering operating costs for the customer by shifting the responsibility of maintenance and repair to the dealer. CSAs are tailored to fit the customer’s specific needs and can range from simple Preventive Maintenance Kits to all-inclusive Total-Cost Performance Guarantees. No matter its scope, every CSA carries with it the assurance that the Cat dealer will follow through with careful attention to detail, allowing customers the freedom to do what they do best—run their businesses.

CSAs are especially valuable resources in an adverse economy, helping machine owners maintain work commitments with reliable machines, even when faced with unavoidable reductions in support staff. As individualized plans, CSAs are flexible both in cost (ranging from monthly flat-rates to fees based on accumulated hours) and in application (providing coverage for a single machine or an entire fleet, whether Cat equipment or other brands).

Because CSAs allow machine owners to accurately predict machine costs, cash flow is protected, budgeting is simplified and, in long run, operating expenses are trimmed. A CSA that turns over routine maintenance and repair to the Cat dealer, for example, yields savings that accrue from having qualified technicians work on the machine—technicians who have the right training, the right tools, the right parts and the latest information to competently diagnose problems and to recommend repair options. When the Cat dealer handles service, the customer also avoids expenses for maintaining repair facilities, for recruiting and training technicians to cope with rapidly changing technology and for properly disposing of waste fluids and filters.

Even for machine owners who capably handle routine maintenance, CSAs can prove a valuable, cost-saving resource if structured to assure regular, periodic inspection and evaluation of machine condition (undercarriage wear, for example). The right CSA promotes a lifetime of reliable productivity from machines that make their final payoff in high resale value.

Caterpillar Equipment Training Solutions

Nearly all machine owners consider employee safety and cost reduction (through improved operating efficiency) among their chief objectives—in bad times or good. Caterpillar Equipment Training Solutions offers a practical means to help achieve these goals by equipping machine operators to perform their jobs competently and confidently. Today, the method for teaching operating skills can be tailored to the individual operator’s situation—whether class-room instruction, on-site training, “e-learning” or simulators.

Increasingly, simulators are proving an excellent teaching method. Sitting at high-tech simulators, trainees pose no risk to themselves, instructors, on-site workers, machines or property, nor are they taking production machines out of service. Simulator-trained operators will, however, be surprisingly productive when they do take control of a production machine—right from the start. Caterpillar Training Solutions offers simulator training for hydraulic excavators, motor graders, off-highway trucks, wheel loaders and wheel tractor scrapers.

E-learning allows operator training to step into a virtual classroom, the door to which is opened as simply as inserting a CD into a computer or logging on to website for an instructor-led class. Eleven new CDs in the e-learning curriculum assist beginning operators, technicians and equipment owners in understanding the fundamentals of machine operation, safety and maintenance. Interactive exercises keep students involved in the learning process.

Complementing the excellent training provided in the virtual classroom is training that takes place in a classroom with real chairs and real chalkboards—and in the real dust kicked up by machines working in real dirt. These training sessions, led by experienced Cat operators, provide a mix of classroom work and “stick time” for beginning operators, for operators with intermediate skills and for experienced operators who want to fine-tune their skills.

Operator training—yet another means to keep customer businesses “stimulated” and viable in times that test the mettle of even the best people and the best machines.